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When Did We Stop Caring About Civilian Deaths During Wartime?

Posted on Jan 31, 2009
Gaza rubble
AP photo / Fadi Adwan

Heavy machinery removes rubble from a destroyed house belonging to the Al Dayah family. The structure collapsed following Israeli forces’ operations in Gaza City on Jan. 6.

By Robert Fisk

Editor’s note: This article was originally printed in The Independent.

I wonder if we are “normalising” war. It’s not just that Israel has yet again got away with the killing of hundreds of children in Gaza.

And after its own foreign minister said that Israel’s army had been allowed to “go wild” there, it seems to bear out my own contention that the Israeli “Defence Force” is as much a rabble as all the other armies in the region. But we seem to have lost the sense of immorality that should accompany conflict and violence. The BBC’s refusal to handle an advertisement for Palestinian aid was highly instructive. It was the BBC’s “impartiality” that might be called into question. In other words, the protection of an institution was more important than the lives of children. War was a spectator sport whose careful monitoring – rather like a football match, even though the Middle East is a bloody tragedy – assumed precedence over human suffering.

I’m not sure where all this started. No one doubts that the Second World War was a bloodbath of titanic proportions, but after that conflict we put in place all kinds of laws to protect human beings. The International Red Cross protocols, the United Nations – along with the all-powerful Security Council and the much ridiculed General Assembly – and the European Union were created to end large-scale conflict. And yes, I know there was Korea (under a UN flag!) and then there was Vietnam, but after the US withdrawal from Saigon, there was a sense that “we” didn’t do wars any more. Foreigners could commit atrocities en masse – Cambodia comes to mind – but we superior Westerners were exempt. We didn’t behave like that. Low-intensity warfare in Northern Ireland, perhaps. And the Israeli-Arab conflict would grind away. But there was a feeling that My Lai had been put behind us. Civilians were once again sacred in the West.

I’m not sure when the change came. Was it Israel’s disastrous invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the Sabra and Chatila massacre by Israel’s allies of 1,700 Palestinian civilians? (Gaza just missed that record.) Israel claimed (as usual) to be fighting “our” “war against terror” but the Israeli army is not what it’s cracked up to be and massacres (Qana comes to mind in 1996 and the children of Marwahine in 2006) seem to come attached to it. And of course, there’s the little matter of the Iran-Iraq war between 1980 and 1988 which we enthusiastically supported with weapons to both sides, and the Syrian slaughter of thousands of civilians at Hama and.  ...

No, I rather think it was the 1991 Gulf War. Our television lads and lasses played it for all it was worth – it was the first war that had “theme” music to go with the pictures – and when US troops simply smothered alive thousands of Iraqi troops in their trenches, we learned about it later and didn’t care much, and even when the Americans ignored Red Cross rules to mark mass graves, they got away with it. There were women in some of these graves – I saw British soldiers burying them. And I remember driving up to Mutla ridge to show a Red Cross delegate where I had seen a mass grave dug by the Americans, and he looked at the plastic poppy an American had presumably left there and said: “Something has happened.”

He meant that something had happened to international law, to the rules of war. They had been flouted. Then came Kosovo – where our dear Lord Blair first exercised his talents for warmaking – and another ream of slaughter. Of course, Milosevic was the bad guy (even though most of the Kosovars were still in their homes when the war began – their return home after their brutal expulsion by the Serbs then became the war aim). But here again, we broke some extra rules and got away with it. Remember the passenger train we bombed on the Surdulica bridge – and the famous speeding up of the film by Jamie Shea to show that the bomber had no time to hold his fire? (Actually, the pilot came back for another bombing run on the train when it was already burning, but that was excluded from the film.) Then the attack on the Belgrade radio station. And the civilian roads. Then the attack on a large country hospital. “Military target,” said Jamie. And he was right. There were soldiers hiding in the hospital along with the patients. The soldiers all survived. The patients all died.

Then there was Afghanistan and all that “collateral damage” and whole villages wiped out and then there was Iraq in 2003 and the tens of thousands – or half a million or a million – Iraqi civilians killed. Once more, at the very start, we were back to our old tricks, bombing bridges and radio stations and at least one civilian estate in Baghdad where “we” believed Saddam was hiding. We knew it was packed with civilians (Christians, by chance) but the Americans called it a “high risk” operation – meaning that they risked not hitting Saddam – and 22 civilians were killed. I saw the last body, that of a baby, dug from the rubble.

And we don’t seem to care. We fight in Iraq and now we’re going back to fight in Afghanistan again and all the human rights and protections appear to have vanished once more. We will destroy villages and we will find that the Afghans hate us and we will form more criminal militias – as we did in Iraq – to fight for us. The Israelis organised a similar militia in their occupation zone in southern Lebanon, run by a crackpot Lebanese army major. But now their own troops “go wild”. And the BBC is worried about its “impartiality”?


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By vancemack, February 2, 2009 at 12:31 pm Link to this comment

Id say we stopped caring about civilian deaths during wartime shortly after we stopped caring about civilian deaths by terrorists during ‘peacetime.’

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By tomack, February 2, 2009 at 7:30 am Link to this comment

When did we stop caring about civilian, or innocent deaths? I would argue that Mankind never really cared all that much. I used to think that we were improving, getting better by degree; a softening compared to ancient and brutal times.

Then of course you realize that perhaps the numbers are decreasing but the brutality is still evident. What can you say of war pride when we smuggle in our own dead in the dark of night so that pictures cannot be taken of the coffins, and then put on TV. Not that they would be anyway, the networks try to avoid upsetting us too much while we eat our dinner.

Then of course you realize that Facebook is where you go to watch the innocents die. The only place to watch because the TV News won’t show it. 

Then of course you realize that the few corporations still turning a profit are those involved in arms manufacturing, oil, and military support.

Then of course…

Then of course…

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By nomad, February 2, 2009 at 5:22 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This man Mr. Fisk is a noble man who stand up for peace and truth. He should be give a noble peace prize.

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By paul bass—did you even read the article? it was me, February 2, 2009 at 3:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

paul bass—did you even read the article? it was mentioned.
lol to be honest i did post before reading the full article =p

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By M.B.S.S., February 2, 2009 at 1:13 am Link to this comment

when did we start caring about anything outside of narrow self interests?

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By Bertil, February 2, 2009 at 12:45 am Link to this comment

This is how sick we’ve become as a nation.  Keep in ind that these are high school students in an old impoverished city in Massachusettes.

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By KDelphi, February 1, 2009 at 9:42 pm Link to this comment

paul bass—did you even read the article? it was mentioned.

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By paul bass, February 1, 2009 at 6:20 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

By troublesum,
“Livni says Israeli settlers will be moved out of the West Bank by force if necessary, as the only way to peace. “
ya good luck with that!
some how i dont think that any israeli gov will risk a civil war to get a peace they don’t want unless to do anouther sharon pull out all settlers so they don’t have to worry about aiming

as for the topic when did we care about civilian ... wait i mean collateral damage any one care about iraqi civilians in america how about afganistan
the only time civilain death make a diffrence is when some one else is doing the killing and only when it a reason for us to go in and take over..
i mean spreading freedom and democracy

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By troublesum, February 1, 2009 at 5:28 pm Link to this comment

Livni says Israeli settlers will be moved out of the West Bank by force if necessary, as the only way to peace.  Mitchell isn’t allowed to talk about the situation in the West Bank but Israeli politicians do every day.  How rediculous.

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By Kwagmyre, February 1, 2009 at 5:20 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Felicity wrote:
“It should also be considered that since Vietnam when soldiers were often vilified as nothing but merciless killers and war became an ugly word, Americans have been, perhaps to assuage their guilt, on a campaign to glorify the soldier.”

Yes, which became a rallying point for McCain in this last election.  It was conveniently NOT mentioned in the media that as a pilot flying over North Vietnam he most assuredly was bombing civilians there.

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By KDelphi, February 1, 2009 at 4:48 pm Link to this comment

As Chris Hedges says in “War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning”,

“Natinalist triumphalism was shunned and discredited in America after Vietnam. We were forced to see ourselves as others saw us, and it was not always pleasant, We understood, at least for a moment, the lie. But the plague of nationalism was recurrected during the Reagan years. It became ascendent with the Persian Gulf War, when we embraced the mythic and unachiaveable goal of a “New World Order”. The infection of nationalism now is unchecked and blindly accepted in the march we make as a nation towards another war, one as ill conceived as the war we lost in southeast Asia.”

If we dont back off of it, we are screwed. That is what I think.

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By BrotherWalt, February 1, 2009 at 4:47 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Folks, perhaps it would be a good idea to actually know what happened before the Anti Semitic rhetoric is ratcheted up to a frenzy.

Fact Hamas deliberately rounded up civilians and herded them into buildings that Hamas then used as artillery and rocket bases. Doctors have certified that almost all of the civilian deaths that were incurred was because Hamas used them for human shields. In addition, Muslim ER doctors at Gazan hospitals have certified that most of the deaths to Gazans involved 17-22 year olds who were Hamas super warriors, not innocent civilians as reported by many Anti Semitic media sources.

Finally I would ask each of the brave souls here how long would you have stayed in your homes if your home towns were rocketed every day? 3 years? Remember now you must not retaliate!  You must sit there like good little targets and let the rocketeers have their FUN !

Pardon me but the air seems a little poisonous.

Brother Walt Gee

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By brewerstroupe, February 1, 2009 at 4:38 pm Link to this comment

One of the players to emerge way above the propaganda storm is the clearly focused Forward Thinking group. Founded by William Sieghart, it includes Sir Jeremy Greenstock, former British Ambassador to the U.N. and is working with Hamas towards a solution based on the British experience with Sinn Fein.

The following is a very worthwhile article from the group’s founder:

In the five years that I have been visiting Gaza and the West Bank, I have met hundreds of Hamas politicians and supporters. None of them has professed the goal of Islamising Palestinian society, Taleban-style. Hamas relies on secular voters too much to do that. People still listen to pop music, watch television and women still choose whether to wear the veil or not.

The political leadership of Hamas is probably the most highly qualified in the world. Boasting more than 500 PhDs in its ranks, the majority are middle-class professionals - doctors, dentists, scientists and engineers. Most of its leadership have been educated in our universities and harbour no ideological hatred towards the West. It is a grievance-based movement, dedicated to addressing the injustice done to its people. It has consistently offered a ten-year ceasefire to give breathing space to resolve a conflict that has continued for more than 60 years.

The Bush-Blair response to the Hamas victory in 2006 is the key to today’s horror. Instead of accepting the democratically elected Government, they funded an attempt to remove it by force; training and arming groups of Fatah fighters to unseat Hamas militarily and impose a new, unelected government on the Palestinians. Further, 45 Hamas MPs are still being held in Israeli jails.

Six months ago the Israeli Government agreed to an Egyptian- brokered ceasefire with Hamas. In return for a ceasefire, Israel agreed to open the crossing points and allow a free flow of essential supplies in and out of Gaza. The rocket barrages ended but the crossings never fully opened, and the people of Gaza began to starve. This crippling embargo was no reward for peace.

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By serenade, February 1, 2009 at 3:42 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Big-time corporate war profiteering goes back to the Civil War, at least. The Bush family has been long-involved in this lucrative field. Let’s not forget Daddy’s (“wimp-factor”) manly 1989 wee-hours-of-the-morning invasion of those brutal. bloodthirsty, sleeping Panamanians. Hi-tech, dazzling firepower directly into the poorest slums of Panama City. Thousands more little brown people wiped out of poverty by the liberator, Bush.

His son has “normalized” war to the extent that news reports and papers have obligingly alloted the page or time-slot; headlines, sports, weather, the funnies and ... The War. Iraq or Afghanistan, it matters not - thousands more little brown people wiped out of poverty by the liberator, Bush.

This is our government, armed to the teeth and looking for more, always more, war. Is this our People? I don’t think so. Obama? We’ll soon see.

Great quote from St. Augustine, eileen ~ a call that People need to reflect upon.

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By writeon, February 1, 2009 at 3:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What kind of a people do we become, if the massive and disproportionate use of violence from our side, becomes our normal response to enemy attack or resistance to our will?

There are deep and disturbing moral, ethical and philosophical questions involved here, which we’d do well to think about seriously before we go down the road of using disproportionate violence in our military conflicts and wars.

At the core we are throwing away literally centuries of attempts to provide rules and breaks on our use of violence in warfare. It’s turning our backs on cherished principles about what it means to be civilised and what barbarism is.

Like the proscriptions against the use of systematic torture, which the Whitehouse thought somewhat ‘quaint’, in our cowardly, new world; if we, in the ‘enlightened’ West begin a policy of disproportionate use of violence, we will turn ourselves into barbarians.

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By Verne Arnold, February 1, 2009 at 3:03 pm Link to this comment

> eileen fleming, February 1 at 7:48 am;

Sorry Eileen, I just couldn’t watch the whole thing. Enough! I’ve given up on us. I guess it’s good to have people like you but I just can’t do it anymore.

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By KDelphi, February 1, 2009 at 1:06 pm Link to this comment

I would agree with Shift (Native Americans), and, I think that that points to the fact that the uS , indeed the entire West, was founded on war and conquest.

Not that there arent other societies that were as well. But, I am not certain that “we” ever did care all that much. I am just looking at the results of the civilian casualities going on right now—drones, Gaza, etc. Everytime someone brings it up, the media “bounces” it right out of consciousnes, with a story about Blog or Palin.

Remember when Rummy said, “We are a warlike people”. I took extreme offense to it, but, when you look at our history…what can you say.

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By davidperi, February 1, 2009 at 11:54 am Link to this comment

Last week on the Bill Mover´s Journal, Marilyn Young and Pierre Sprey talked about bombing especially with these new drones.  Sprey, himself, a former Pentagon official under McNamara mentioned that the U.S. will be digging a deep hole and may be like Russia and may turn tail.

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By jackpine savage, February 1, 2009 at 10:45 am Link to this comment

When?  WWII and the advent of strategic bombing, in particular.  We didn’t care when we fire-bombed Tokyo, or even dropped two nukes on Japan.

Modern warfare (WW I was a transitional war between the old and the new) has never concerned itself with civilian casualties.  If it did then all the cool toys developed to prosecute it would be worthless.

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By Blackspeare, February 1, 2009 at 9:48 am Link to this comment

Fisk has hit directly upon the problem——we don’t finish the job.  When you pursue a war to the ultimate conclusion of unconditional surrender by the enemy all problems go away——there’s no one to complain.  WW II is the prime example.  The total defeat of Germany and Japan led to an easy occupation and reconstruction as a matter of fact it was so easy the USA is still there!!!

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By howie bledsoe, February 1, 2009 at 9:21 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Israel is showcasing its new arms arsenal and using Gaza as its showroom. In much the same way Britain used N. Ireland as it`s weaponry showcase.  Its very sick, but profit is more powerful than powerless people.  But in return, Isreal has lost the respect of the world and will suffer deeply for it in the long run.

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By eileen fleming, February 1, 2009 at 8:48 am Link to this comment

Israel is NOT getting away with anything and the Revolution is happening on You Tube and Face Book

The anthem:

We Will Not Go Down in Gaza

Has been heard over a million times by now

It was reborn in this powerful video and introduced on Face Book and You Tube a few days ago:


Ahmed Emara’s video of real time terror by the state of Israel upon the innocent caught in the cross fire in the War on Gaza;

Are wedded in perfect harmony to Michael Hearts voice and lyrics.

You have NOT seen anything until you see Gaza

From the point of view of the innocent caught in the crossfire of violence and state sponsored terrorism.

I hope all of America will have ears to hear, eyes to see and Hearts that bleed

For ALL the innocent victims of the War on Gaza and Occupation of Palestine.

Lyrics by Michael Heart

A blinding flash of white light
Lit up the sky over Gaza tonight
People running for cover
Not knowing whether they’re dead or alive

They came with their tanks and their planes
With ravaging fiery flames
And nothing remains
Just a voice rising up in the smoky haze

We will not go down
In the night, without a fight
You can burn up our mosques and our homes and our schools
But our spirit will never die
We will not go down
In Gaza tonight

Women and children alike
Murdered and massacred night after night
While the so-called leaders of countries afar
Debated on who’s wrong or right

But their powerless words were in vain
And the bombs fell down like acid rain
But through the tears and the blood and the pain
You can still hear that voice through the smoky haze

We will not go down
In the night, without a fight
You can burn up our mosques and our homes and our schools
But our spirit will never die
We will not go down
In Gaza tonight

Education is The Way to Compassion; Compassion is The Way to Change and;

“HOPE has two children. The first is ANGER at the way things are. The second is COURAGE to DO SOMETHING about it.”-St. Augustine

Do Something:

Eileen Fleming, Author,
Founder, Senior Correspondent WAWA:
Producer “30 Minutes With Vanunu” and “13 Minutes with Vanunu”

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By Anna Catherine, February 1, 2009 at 8:13 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We have a new acceptance of human misery in general. Iraq and Hurrican Katrina were prime examples. Torture became almost OK. We are well on our way to a permanent state of war because the human toll no longer registers shock. Today, milions will watch the Super Bowl while unmanned drones drop bombs that cannot avoid civilians. We have weapons that now make war a remote concept. The fact that the dead and injured are thousands of miles away doesn’t alter the fact that they’re dead. We don’t get much news about our own military without looking for it by choice. Our newspapers have lost readers to the internet, no doubt. But they also lost sight of what they’re about. When our military is suffering casualties anywhere in the world, that’s page one. That’s the news. So a lack of reporting and a daily barrage of junk TV and advertising creates an “out of sight, out of mind” climate. It appears to be working. I wasn’t always like that.

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By felicity, February 1, 2009 at 7:58 am Link to this comment

Surgical strikes have numbed us to the agony of war. 

Perhaps it was the Gulf War, our first opportunity to ‘view’ a war, a veritable light-show like no 4th of July extravaganza we’d ever seen - and all enjoyed while sitting in the warmth and safety of our living-rooms - when the numbness began. 

It should also be considered that since Vietnam when soldiers were often vilified as nothing but merciless killers and war became an ugly word, Americans have been, perhaps to assuage their guilt, on a campaign to glorify the soldier.  In so doing we are glorifying war. (Just a thought, but since soldiers are ultimately trained to have personality disorders, can we be far behind?)

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By photoshock, February 1, 2009 at 6:55 am Link to this comment

Should the civilized world ever come to its senses and outlaw war, then we will see the damage that has been done by the immoral and illegal way in which war has been conducted.
Israel, has no particular corner on the barbarity of how war is conducted, yet because of the state of information in the world today, we see the results much more quickly. I sense that even in this time of “cease-fire” Israel will continue to break any agreements that have been made by settling people in the West Bank, through illegal means and without any sense of how it affects the Palestinian population.
Israel, with its sense of impunity, granted to it by the United States, and the “bible” has called all of Israel, its “holy land,” and will not in the end even
to gain acceptance and peace accords throughout the Middle East give up any land it has already taken and
will take more and more until it is stopped by convention of the world community.
Until then, Israel will continue to wage a “genocidal
conflict” against the Palestinians. No one in their left minds can dispute that Israel is a rogue nation
that continues a tradition left to it by America and the world community.
We are now faced with the growing discontent of the American population and rightly so, our policies of granting Israel immunity from the world’s wrath and anger have undoubtedly prolonged the conflict that should have been settled many years ago. Yet Israel, fights on and on, killing Palestinians by the thousands and maiming and injuring innocent men, women and children the hundreds of thousands.  I for one, will continue to speak out against the belligerent, illegal and immoral behaviour of a nation that claims its right to exist, by reason of its own encounter with the genocidal wishes of an entire continent. Yet this does not give the Israelis
the permission and legal authority to commit genocide
of its own accord, even for “legitimate reasons of “self defense.””

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By Verne Arnold, February 1, 2009 at 6:51 am Link to this comment

Shift, February 1 at 5:37 am;

Good one. I didn’t go back far enough; you did and good on ya!

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By Jim Yell, February 1, 2009 at 6:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Who doesn’t care the most. The Jews who are constantly attacked from Gaza or the Moslems who aid and encourage the people who sneak around and bomb Jews going about their daily life.

If you can’t stand the killing of children than stop allowing your lands to be used to fire rockets into Israel and for the rest of us, would we tolerate such attacks without a response? I don’t think so.

When the terror and killing stops coming from Gaza than I should expect the Jews to have no interest in policing Gaza. If you don’t want the Jews to do it than start doing the policing yourselves.

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By thebeerdoctor, February 1, 2009 at 6:47 am Link to this comment

Robert Fisk’s reporting on the Middle East is important because he has been there for so long and witnessed so many incidents of insanity that are remarkably justified by the political leaders, from his own Tony Blair, to our Bushes, Clintons, and now Obama.
To understand the depth of Fisk’s analysis, it would be wise to read his big book, The Great War For Civilisation, the conquest of the Middle East.
After reading this illuminating but disturbing book, one can only sense a strange irony that Israel has diplomatic relations with Turkey. The same Israel that constantly complains about holocaust deniers in Iran, feels no problem with Turkey, a country that has never taken responsibility for their own holocaust against the Armenians in 1916.

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By Paul_GA, February 1, 2009 at 6:40 am Link to this comment

Perhaps we stopped caring when the USA, for one, went over to an all-volunteer military, thus concentrating the pain and travail of military service on a small minority of Americans; for the rest of us, war is like a movie or a video game—it’s definitely something that happens to other people, the 9/11 atrocity notwithstanding.

So what of Israel, with its draftee military? Well, the Israelis are, by and large, homogeneous, with a shared history and an enemy they’ve been indoctrinated to believe is as evil as the Nazis of old and determined to inflict a new holocaust upon the Jewish race; therefore, they must either wipe that enemy out or drive them away—far away.

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By Shift, February 1, 2009 at 6:37 am Link to this comment

American’s stopped caring during the founding of America with the wholesale slaughter of Native Americans.  A culture of death enfolds America and until we choose life over death, nothing will change. What we do to others will ultimately be done to us.  Choose life and live.

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By jr., February 1, 2009 at 4:18 am Link to this comment

Mr. Fisk,  “When did we stop caring…” 
We, are not in that kind of behavior, together.

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By writeon, February 1, 2009 at 4:14 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It’s the sheer scale of the disparity, between the numbers killed in our glorious Western wars for Freedom, that strikes one over and over again.

The mass slaughter of Iraqis, as a defenceless army withdrew from Kuwait, during the first Gulf War. Then the seige of Iraq, where hundreds of thousands died, a ‘price’ worth paying! Followed by the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, hundreds of thousands more killed. Now, Gaza. Massive destrution, a helpless and almost defenceless population attacked by a modern Western army with incredible fire-power at its disposal. 1500 killed and the Israel’s lose five soldiers in combat, four more killed by friendly fire.

Forget about who was ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in these conflicts, what’s interesting is collosal difference in the casuality rates in these ‘wars’ if one can even really call them ‘wars’ at all. They resemble a cull, or a mass execution, more than a war. Of course the US has lost over 3000 soldiers in Irag, but compared to the Iraqi losses?

From an historical perspective, these are the classic kill ratios that chracterise imperialist ‘warfare’ against ‘native tribes’ armed with primative weapons from another age, bows and arrows against machine-guns!

Something terrible has happened to the West, or perhaps more accurately the West’s political leadership, seconded by their servants in the mass-media. We have become callous, smiling, butchers, without hearts or conciences. We have become morally corrupt and we simply don’t care how many of the ‘terrorists’ we kill. We have become self-righteous in our slaughter.

Once we define the enemy as ‘evil’ and ourselves as ‘good’ and democratic, this seems to give us licence for any crime, no matter how abominable, how bloody, how glaringly unjust and disproportionate. This is, of course, a terrible and ghastly road to go down. It leads directly to unspeakable acts of inhumanity and ultra-violence, like we’ve seen in Gaza, which undermine our humanity, as we deny the basic humanity of those we kill with casual impunity.

So we in the West are becoming ‘civilised barbarians’, we kill because we can, and nobody can stop us, or put a break on us. And it’s getting worse and worse. Soon we’ll be using even more terrible weapons agaisnt our enemies, as our inexorable slide towards even greater barbarity continues unchecked by morality, which we’ve discarded on route to the battle-fields of Hell.

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By Rosemary Molloy, February 1, 2009 at 4:05 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Yes, certainly, the fact that slaughter can now be “at a remove” rather than hand-to-hand is a huge factor.  But paramount, I think, is the slow creep of the worship of force.  The idea of “supporting our troops” is instilled from babyhood and what are “troops” but hired killers?  Going to any lengths to “win” in business, sports and other endeavors is promoted as never before.  I suppose in certain circles, gentleness is favored, but in our country, not so noticably as to penetrate the might makes right mindset.

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By Verne Arnold, February 1, 2009 at 3:56 am Link to this comment

WWII, Dresden; fire bombing a civilian population and the city they lived in. The death toll may have exceeded our bombing of Hiroshima or Nagasaki. These might be good starting points; or how about Germany bombing the Spanish civilians during the period of 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939. In more recent times Israel’s targeted killings; which we now copy. History offers so many choices; you choose.
Why do we talk this to death and do nothing about it? Yes, rhetorical question: We’re in a period of perpetual war and we don’t stop our own leaders from walking this path to nowhere.

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By Ed Harges, January 31, 2009 at 11:49 pm Link to this comment

The back door through which this demon has crept back into acceptability is in the form of the Israeli concept of the “infrastructure of terror”. The IOT includes anything that may give any sort of aid or comfort to the enemy. Does the Hamas militant derive comfort from thinking of the mother who loves him? Well, she’s part of the IOT, and thus fair game. And so whole blocks of apartment buildings, full of aiding and comforting souls, can be incinerated with white phosphorous in the name of Israel’s “security”.

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By Fadel Abdallah, January 31, 2009 at 11:44 pm Link to this comment

My own study and analysis of history, lead me to the conclusion that conflict in Palestine in particular and the Middle East in general was a micro extension of the titanic bloodbaths of the colonial wars of WWII, and the artificial and illegitimate creation of Israel as a Western colonial post in the heart of the Middle East.

Following is a sadly interesting article reflecting on Israel’s long-term dilemma as an artificial entity!
No Happy Ending

by Fred Reed

“The practical question regarding Israel’s recent invasion of Gaza is not “Who is right?” but “Can Israel last?”
As I write, Israel is using a military designed to fight hostile countries to fight a hostile population. In the modern world, this has seldom worked. To defeat a country you destroy its military and capture its territory. But Gaza has little military to destroy, no tanks or aircraft, and Israel already owns its territory. The IDF can invade but, afterward, the population will still be there, and still be hostile. Stabbing jello doesn’t buy you much.
Israel remains a small state in a region that intensely doesn’t want it. The rights and wrongs change nothing. Again and again, Israel lashes out, lashes out, against enemies that can be defeated but never decisively. And so the bombs fall on Gaza, on Syria, on Beirut, perhaps on Iran. Each war guarantees the next: 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, 2006, 2009, world without end.
Israel today is not the country once dreamed, in which Heidelberg professors escaped from Europe would work the soil with their hands on kibbutzim and play chess and the violin at night. It looks more like what the professors fled. Brutal conflicts breed brutal people. Atrocities engender counter-atrocities, extremists come to the fore, and military solutions seem the only solutions.
Where is this going? How long can it continue? Another fifty years? A hundred? Say I, either the country finds peace with its neighbors or it goes the way of the Crusader Kingdom. We can stipulate that the Israelis are the world’s best people, or the worst. It doesn’t matter. You can die in the right as easily as in the wrong.
The Israelis appear to be trapping themselves in their own policies. They continue their annexation of the West Bank. The settlements are now so numerous and so populous that dismantling them is probably politically impossible for any Israeli government, which rules out a two-state solution. To control a large hostile population, you need harsh methods, which keep the population hostile. Arabs outbreed the Israelis, so that a proportionately declining number of Israelis rule a slowly rising tide of Arabs. Think: South Africa. How is this going to work? For how long?”
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By P. T., January 31, 2009 at 10:45 pm Link to this comment

George Mitchell has yet to mention the settlements in the occupied territories.  He is a joke.

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By P. T., January 31, 2009 at 10:43 pm Link to this comment

The rulers of imperialist countries believe that a war will become unpopular if a country’s casualties get too high.  So bombs and missles are used instead of ground forces, leading to high numbers of dead and wounded civilians in less developed countries.

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By CJ, January 31, 2009 at 10:27 pm Link to this comment

I’d forgotten momentarily the burying alive of Iraqis when Herbert Bush thought it essential to drive Saddam out of “democracy” that was Kuwait. Unlike story at the time of Iraqi troops murdering babies in incubators, a true story from what I read then and now again. (I don’t mean I think Iraqi troops were more moral than any other. Hardly as they murdered enough in Iran and then in Kuwait.)

As Fisk notes, the ball that is mass-murdering of civilians seems to have gotten rolling with WWII. By that time higher-tech weapons having been developed such that killing could be done from greater distances, though not always, as in the later case of Mi Lai and however many other yet-unknown places where the same thing took place.

(I just happened to see the most fascinating program on Link to do with how Vietnamese look for and find thousands upon thousands of their own MIA. Vietnamese believing that without proper burial spirits wander lost. I don’t believe that, but what’s relevant is that many Vietnamese believe that. Enough to go to considerable lengths to locate remains of MIA (Regulars or Viet Cong in the case of the program I watched) killed resisting American onslaught. By means of psychics for the most part. Since most Vietnamese can’t afford DNA testing of any found remains. Anyway, fascinating not only from the standpoint of people wanting to find ancestors but maybe more importantly for any who aren’t Vietnamese and thus not fully cognizant of what they suffered and continue to suffer. But off topic.)

Maybe war became more immoral than before when Fisk says, during so-called “Desert Storm”—rather more stormy for their side than for ours. Until 10 years later.

Not to forget, however, same Herbert Bush’s assault on Panama, during which time several thousand Panamanian civilians were sent to the slaughter. All to extract ex-CIA bud, Manuel Noriega, no doubt more than confused at the time. Who’s not confused by U.S. foreign policy in at least one way? Love ya today; hate ya tomorrow.

After desert disaster (for them), there was Clinton’s war on Serbia (via Wes Clark) in defense of Bosnia. (Always in someone else’s if not one’s own defense. The former almost always regarded as “good war,” if not so often the latter. Not that there is any such thing, of course. Chomsky debunked “just war” theory some time ago. Before Senior Cadets at West Point no less. Compared to whom Dershowitz was hardly worthy opponent in debate, as Dershowitz proved when he turned out lunch for—this time, aptly named—Chomsky.)

I’m not sure Fisk isn’t right that it began again with war waged by Iraq (ally at the time) on Iran over almost ten years, resulting in massive death. Or beginning with less noisily explosive kind of war that was ours on Iraq by means of imposition of sanctions. Or maybe with Israel’s decades-long, systematic assault on Palestinian civilians, aside from ones ousted way, way back when. I’d not heard what Fisk reports here of IDF being allowed or encouraged? to “go wild.” And so they did! With relish.

I’m not sure, however, that going hog-wild didn’t really warp up until 9/11, when revenge on any and all came to be widely believed to be righteous cause. Served up not cold but burning-phosphorous hot, first to Afghan civilians, slightly later to Iraqi civilians, back when a majority of Americans were staunch believers in/backers of “Shock & Awe,” a moniker even more absurdly propagandistic than “Desert Storm.”

9/11 became excuse for torture too on the part of national-security state.

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By Dan, January 31, 2009 at 9:18 pm Link to this comment
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Mr. Fisk has an odd view of history.  Since when was war ever kind?  Since when did civilians matter in war?  The history of mankind is one of brutality and nothing has changed.  After VietNam the NVA murdered 2 million South Vietnamise, but Fisk just ignores this to blame America for it’s actions.

No one will read your articles Mr. Fisk, if you don’t keep to the truth. 

Humans are brutal, all of us.  What world do you live in?

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